October 2012 Trend Briefing:
Why for brands, serving, assisting, and lubricating is the new selling.


Yes, consumers are more demanding, time-starved, informed, and choice-saturated than ever-before (we know you know). For brands to prosper, the solution is simple though: turn SERVILE. This goes far beyond offering great customer service*. SERVILE means turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers, wherever and whenever they are.

* Everyday great ‘customer service’ will of course forever be crucial: a 2011 American Express survey found that 70% of American consumers were willing to spend more with brands that provided a great service, and a whopping 60% thought brands weren’t thinking enough about the service experience.


Three key changes among consumers are driving the need for your brand or business to go truly SERVILE:


We've repeatedly flagged up the sky-rocketing number of CITYSUMERS (urban consumers). CITYSUMERS who crave the endless novel and exciting experiences that modern hyper-cities offer. Which is why they will seek out or even demand SERVILE BRANDS – brands that can help empower them or offer them the freedom and flexibility to make the most of urban life.

Completely connected, they also expect the best of the online world – instant information and immediate gratification – to be built-in to their offline experiences. That’s why SERVILE BRANDS bend over and do as they're told ;-)



The endless abundance and increasing material affluence in modern consumer economies (yes, even amongst financially challenged consumers), has led to an increasing feeling of being time-starved.

Indeed, a survey by research company Datamonitor found that 44% of consumers across 14 countries now say that it’s difficult to manage their daily obligations and find time to relax. 

No wonder then that consumers are demanding tools and services to help them get the most from the present moment, however brief. This NOWISM world means brands have no choice but to satisfy consumer demand for instant gratification and ultra-convenience. That’s why SERVILE BRANDS cut to the chase, and save their customers time. In any possible way.



Here’s the new reality: consumers will never again revere brands the way they used to:

  • Only 47% of consumers around the world say they trust paid media (television, magazine and newspaper ads), a decline of over 20% since 2009.
  • 92% of global consumers say they trust earned media (word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family) above all other forms of advertising, an increase of 18% since 2007.
  • Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising with 70% of global consumers trusting them, an increase of 15% in four years.

(Source: Nielsen, April 2012)

  • Only 29% of consumers in Brazil, China and India say that it pays to be loyal to favored brands.

(Source: COLLOQUY and Epsilon's Cross-Cultural Loyalty Study, 2011)

With consumers increasingly turning to (and trusting) other consumers, brands can no longer expect to be able to craft or control their image. Another reason to be SERVILE and put the needs of your customers above your own.



Enough of the theory. Here’s a smattering of SERVILE examples from all over the world, including for context’s sake, a few from our September Trend Briefing on MINI TRENDS. After all, SERVILE BRANDS is a classic ‘umbrella trend’; a common thread for many of the small and big trends we’ve been discussing over the past 12 months.

Letting customers try out first

Hyundai Home Shopping

In May 2012, Hyundai Home Shopping introduced its new mobile application, ‘H-Codi’. It is a ‘virtual fashion coordination’ program with Augmented Reality Technology. Via this application customers can virtually try on or test most products from Hyundai Home Shopping. For example, the camera on smart phones scans customer’s face or body, and shows pictures with co-ordinated fashion products such as earrings, neckties and handbags. This service is also available for interior accessories and more; about 70,000 products are available. Augmented Reality photos can be saved, and also shared with friends via Cacao Talk (Korean WhatsApp) and Facebook.

Orca Chevrolet's Rescue Drive

To promote the release of Chevrolet's Cobalt model, Brazil-based car dealership Orca Chevrolet launched the Rescue Drive campaign in early 2012. The promotion targeted consumers after a breakdown, when they were likely to be frustrated with their own vehicles. Stranded drivers who called participating tow trucks were surprised by an accompanying Chevrolet Cobalt, which they were given the opportunity to test drive.

Marks & Spencer's Virtual Manicure

Marks & Spencer's Virtual Manicure is a free online and in-store service which enables customers to test the UK retailer’s nail polish range on their own fingers. Shoppers upload an image of their hands and then click on a nail color to see what it would look like before they purchase it.

Helping customers monitor anything

Volkswagen China's Think Blue

In early June 2012, Volkswagen launched its first eco-awareness mobile app in China. The 'Blue Mobility' app is the first in-car mobile app which tracks and analyzes users' real-time driving behavior. It then provides tips and advice on how to curtail excessive fuel usage.

Babolat's Play & Connect

Set to launch during 2013, Play & Connect from French brand Babolat is a tennis racquet which features integrated sensors providing real-time information on gameplay. The device can detect service speed, the power of each hit and ball spin, to give players feedback on their performance. Sensors located in the handle also monitor the type of stroke and the position of the ball on the racquet, enabling analysis of both technique and game statistics. Data is sent wirelessly to a computer or smartphone, enabling users to view data and set goals.

China Survival Guide

The China Survival Guide is a free iPhone app that tracks food and health scandals across China, so users don't need to keep up with the news reports themselves. It was downloaded 200,000 times within a week of launching.

See the infographic »

A 1 minute summary of trendwatching.com's Trend Briefing on SERVILE BRANDS

Helping customers find anything real-time

Westfield: Shopping mall search

Westfield, the world’s largest shopping centre operator, added Google Commerce's search functionality to its in-mall mobile app to save shoppers’ time in their malls. Shoppers can search and compare prices across retailers in their local Westfield shopping mall, and call the local retailers to check availability with one click.

SK Telecom's Smart Cart

Last October, a SK Telecom pilot tested Smart Cart in Emart stores in Seoul, providing accurate in-store information. Shoppers search for products and discount coupons, and create a shopping list on the smartphone app; this is later user-authenticated and synced to shopping carts equipped with augmented reality tablets. Smart Cart harnesses NFC technology to update real-time information such as product availability, membership points and check-out procedures. SK Telecom plans to officially launch Smart Cart in South Korea and China by the end of 2013.

Helping customers understand everything real-time

Schiphol Airport's Chinese translation app

In January 2012, Amsterdam's Schiphol airport released a Chinese version of the Schiphol app, offering information on flights, public transport and product offers, as well as maps of the departure lounges, all in Mandarin. The app also enables translation of signs in the airport, via a recognition system using smartphone cameras.

Harrods' Chinese translation app

London department store Harrods also launched a free Chinese language smartphone app, offering shoppers functions such as an interactive guide to the store, restaurant menus, and details on events taking place.

Being there when customers truly need you, even if they didn't realize it yet


For many residents of Quebec (Canada), property leases expire on July 1st. This makes it a popular moving day, and thus storage items such as cardboard boxes are in high demand. So last year, IKEA put up 2,000 cardboard posters around Montreal that could be assembled into moving boxes. The posters were printed with slogans that encouraged residents to take them home, and also included discounts on new furniture.

Picking up where the government isn’t

OUTsurance Pointsmen

OUTsurance is a South African insurance company that put traffic wardens on the streets of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Tshwane – to ease the traffic flow at dangerous or congested junctions.

Dial Direct's Pothole Brigade

Another South African insurance firm Dial Direct, launched the Pothole Brigade, a road maintenance initiative that repaired over 50,000 potholes in and around Johannesburg, as drivers reported them. Sadly, red tape recently killed the initiative, but there are plenty of other cities that could benefit from a similar set-up.

Safaricom's Daktari 1525

In the last quarter of 2011, Kenyan telco provider Safaricom partnered with mobile health specialist Call-a-Doc to launch Daktari - 1525. Subscribers can get medical advice from qualified personnel for around two cents per minute by dialing '1525'. The service does not offer diagnosis or prescription, only an appropriate level of counsel and (when necessary) reference to local medical centers. All calls are confidential.

Helping customers save money


Launched in South Africa in January 2012, 22seven is a financial services platform that looks at users’ bank statements to determine where they could save money. Consumers can see where they generally spend money, and where they might be overspending; they are then offered strategies and plans to help them reduce their outgoings. To use 22seven requires members to disclose full details of bank accounts and passwords.

Billshrink / Orange

BillShrink is a US based service that analyzes consumers' phone bills (once the owner grants access), before making a personalized recommendation of one of the 10 million plan combinations it monitors.
UK mobile provider Orange offers pay monthly customers a service that checks whether they are on the best available talk plan (based on their call, text and data usage history) every six months.

Samsung's Upgrade Program

The Samsung Upgrade promotion encourages US customers to trade in old smartphones in exchange for a Galaxy. After purchasing the Galaxy S2, S3 or Note, users upload information about their used smartphone to Samsung’s Facebook page and receive a quote for its value. Consumers send off their old device in return for a check of up to USD 300.

Bank of America's BankAmeriDeals

Bank of America's BankAmeriDeals program offers customers promotions based on the retailers they frequent. When users check their account online or via the app, cashback offers are listed next to the names of participating stores they have shopped at. Rewards can be redeemed at the locations on future visits.

Helping customers start the day pleasantly

Boondoggle’s Winter Wake-Up

Winter Wake-Up is an app that functions as a standard alarm clock, but (by connecting to online weather forecasts) wakes users earlier than usual if there has been unexpected snow or icy conditions during the night. Users can choose not to be woken at all if extreme conditions make their commute hopeless. 

Uniqlo's Wake Up

In a similar vein, Uniqlo Wake Up is a free app which wakes users up with music automatically created based on the weather, with a melodic voice to announce the time, conditions and day of the week.

Helping customers to make the most of it

autoTRADER's autoLYZER

Canadian auto classifieds autoTRADER created the autoLYZER Facebook app, which uses data from users’ Facebook profiles (including recent photographs, social activities, comments and interests) to generate three vehicles available for sale which suit their lifestyle and personality.


Indonesian fitness and health portal DuniaFitnes released a smartphone app offering tailored training regimes as well as health-related information, including nutrition tables and fitness videos. The free app also features a store where users can purchase fitness and wellbeing products.

Emporio Armani's EA7

Emporio Armani has created a mobile app for its sports apparel range EA7, providing consumers with lifestyle and fitness tips. The app is free and offers interactive experiences, games, and content that links to the clothing collection.

“44% of consumers across 14 countries now say that it’s difficult to manage their daily obligations and find time to relax.”

Bringing customers recommendations that actually make sense


US based Ticketmaster unveiled a ticketing Facebook app in January 2012, enabling users to browse music events, see which shows their friends are attending, read reviews, schedule a wishlist of upcoming concerts they hope to attend, and of course, purchase tickets. The 'Recommended Events' feature uses Spotify integration to see which acts the visitor has been posting about online, and sharing with friends, so that it can provide a list of suggested concerts.

Hellmann’s & St. Marche

In May 2012, Hellmann’s offered recipes tailored to the ingredients the shopper had just purchased. Custom software was installed in cash registers at Brazilian supermarket chain St. Marche. When a shopper bought a jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, the cash register recognized this and generated a custom recipe based on the mayonnaise and the other ingredients that were purchased, automatically printing this on the receipt.

Making things more seamless for customers

Ford's KeyFree

To promote Ford’s KeyFree technology (which allows drivers to unlock and lock vehicles with NFC fobs), the automaker created an app that logs into a user’s digital accounts, without them having to type in their passwords. Consumers enter their usernames and passwords into the free app, and when they approach a synced computer, it detects their (Bluetooth enabled) device’s proximity and signs into the pre-registered programs.

Vodafone & Richard Nicoll

Vodafone UK and fashion designer Richard Nicoll created a handbag that can power a mobile phone while on the move. After the bag is charged from a mains power outlet (using a cable that magnetically attaches to the exterior), it carries up to two days worth of extra battery.

Toyota & Nintendo

Toyota has launched a facility enabling drivers in Japan to control in-vehicle Smart Navi GPS units via Nintendo DS and Bluetooth. Drivers or passengers can purchase a ‘Kuruma de DS’ utility card (costing USD 92) which is inserted into the Nintendo console to allow syncing of pre-saved routes, and navigation.

Virgin America & Rock the Vote

Virgin America and nonprofit Rock the Vote have launched a service in the US that allows passengers to register to vote for the 2012 presidential election, using the in-flight entertainment system.

Health Street's DNA Testing

Health Street, a medical testing company from New York, offers mobile paternity tests via its Who’s Your Daddy? van that cruises the streets of New York. For USD 299, passersby can have a cheek swab taken for analysis in the vehicle’s lab, with results delivered in a couple of days.

Evian's Smart Drop

The Evian Chez Vous website lets Parisians order bottled water for direct delivery to their homes and businesses. Users can order other products from the Danone group, including Badoit or Volvic water. In 2013, the service will be accompanied by the Smart Drop; a wifi-enabled fridge magnet allowing members to order water automatically by pushing a button.

Red Tomato Pizza's Fridge Magnet

The VIP Fridge Magnet from Dubai's Red Tomato Pizza allows customers to order their favorite pizza at the touch of a button. Members of the loyalty program were sent free magnets, which use a smartphone's Bluetooth functionality to connect to the Internet. Once customers have pressed the button on the magnet, the pizza is delivered to their registered address.

Turkcell's Mobile Order

Turkcell announced plans to launch an in-home contactless ecommerce solution. Customers that own the NFC-enabled Turkcell MaxiPlus5 will be able to hold their device against a fridge magnet (that comes with the smartphone) to trigger Mobile Order, an online shopping application. Burger King, Migros, and energy supplier Avgaz are some of the major brands to have partnered to be included on the Mobile Order app. Existing contract customers can upgrade to the new device from TRY 5 (USD 2.75) a month.

Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel & PayTouch

Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel teamed up with Barcelona-based biometric payment provider PayTouch so that guests (who register upon arrival) can make payments with their fingerprints. All the facilities at the destination are equipped with print scanning devices so that visitors needn't carry their wallets or cards around.

GS25's Convenience Stores

'My Refrigerator' service from GS25 (a South Korean convenience store chain) caters to customers who are keen on additional gifts with a purchase, like ‘1+1’ products (two for one or promotion package products), but find additional gifts a burden for them to carry. With 'My Refrigerator' service, customers can save additional gifts in their own virtual refrigerator instead of taking them right away, and pick them up any time during the validity period in any GS25 stores. If they want, the products can be also given to friends as a present.

Tesco's Virtual Grocery Store

UK supermarket Tesco debuted an interactive virtual grocery store at Gatwick Airport in the UK. Travelers departing for a holiday can order food supplies from digital displays with their smartphones. The purchased items are delivered to their homes in time for their return.


First of all, not ALL brands need to be 100% servile: certain luxury brands or the Apples of this world can get away with being DOMINANT BRANDS.

Now, if you're not Gucci or Apple, how to get started? First, realize that servile brands always put themselves second. For most brands/business, this means a radical change in mindset.

Understand that the days of revered brands are over. It’s not about telling your customers that you are important, and they can have a slice of you if they pay for it. Instead, it’s about telling customers: “Whatever you need or want, we’re here to help” (or even better, “We know what you want, here, we’ve already done it for you”).

Pushed to extremes, there are huge opportunities for truly SERVILE BRANDS, that are able to transcend their current offerings and provide complete lifestyle solutions for their customers.

For marketers, SERVILE BRANDS means thinking about creating marketing that isn’t marketing. If consumers aren’t searching for, adopting, installing, or sharing your efforts (in whatever form: product, service, app, content etc), then you need to get back to the drawing board. Now ;-)

Run with the examples above, take another look at our BRAND BUTLERS Trend Briefing, and go all out in creating new concepts, services and products that are infused with servility.

Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to please, serve and satisfy you by bringing you a new, free Trend Briefing early November. Make sure you’re subscribed trendwatching.com logo